The gut-brain connection. What is it? The gut and brain have a steady ability to communicate via the nervous system, hormones, and the immune system. Some of the microbiome can release neurotransmitters, just like our own neurons do, speaking to the brain in its own language via the vagus nerve.
The body responds to stress (mental or physical) via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. For example, if you are eating lunch and a lion jumps into the middle of your picnic table, your “fight or flight” system is fired into full gear, your heart pounds, your pupils dilate, your hair stands on end, natural steroids and adrenaline flood your system to strengthen your muscles and give you an extra burst of speed. Even your platelets change shape so they are more sticky, leaving you less likely to bleed out if you are attacked.
Under conditions of chronic stress,mental or physical, the feedback tends to get messed up, leading to symptoms of chronic stress which includes mental issues such as anxiety or clinical depression, but also physical problems such as chronic gut problems, headaches, and high blood pressure. What does all of that have to do with the gut?
Our stress response doesn’t readily distinguish between mental and physical distress; your heart pounds and you tremble with anxiety when you are in an uncomfortable meeting or situation. = When our body is under stress, it releases what are called inflammatory cytokines, little chemical messengers that bring a certain part of our immune system into high alert. In a sense, our body reacts to all stress as if it were an infection, and to chronic stress as if it were a chronic infection.
Here is the kicker, the immune system works with inflammation that saves your life from all the pathogens out there like the flu and strep, but chronic levels of inflammatory response also lead to all sorts of chronic disease. For example depressive disorders, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis. Immune system activation can also determine whether or not we develop cancer.
Where does the gut get involved? Well, it turns out the gut microbiome plays a key role in regulating our immune response. Thus the make-up of our gut microbiome could make the difference as to whether we are sick or well, both mentally and physically. The “right” gut bacteria also interact on a hormonal level, helping to turn off the cortisol and adrenaline response that can cause long-term harm to the body.
Changing your diet will have immediate effects on your gut health by cutting out process foods, grains and diary.
-Eating probiotic-rich foods, like kefir and sauerkraut, can also cause your gut and mood to thrive. Probiotics are good bacteria that primarily line your gut and are responsible for nutrient absorption and supporting your immune system.
-Healthy fats are essential for brain development. Olive oil, for instance, includes a high amount of antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. It also helps improve memory and cognitive function, and works as an anti-inflammatory. Avocado benefits range from protecting your heart to helping with digestion, but it’s also a great pick for improving your mood.
-For many people, limiting gluten will also have positive effect on their gut microbiome. The traditional methods of soaking, sprouting and souring grains in order to make them digestible and nutritious has been abandoned for a fast and convenient method of mass producing food.
Maybe there is a good correlation between feeding and fighting diseases! Eat to fight disease before taking a prescription pill!